Five things to do in Hainan

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

What was once hailed as the ‘gate of hell’ is now known as China’s tropical gem. And rightly so: The ‘Hawaii of the east’ is blessed with beautiful beaches. However there’s more – much more – to Hainan than sun, sand and sea. Beyond the beach, visitors to the island can hike through the Jianfengling National Forest Park (voted one of the top ten most beautiful forests in China by China National Geographic Magazine), meet the Miao minority villages in Hainan’s central highlands, play a round of golf or visit traditional villages on the east coast. Throw into the mix the fresh air and fact that visitors don’t need a visa and Hainan scores! Here’s the low-down on five things to do on this up and coming island…

Play a round of golf
Forget night clubs, golf clubs are where it’s at. Golf may have been banned in China as recently as 25 years ago, but today the country is obsessed with golf (China is the only country in the world in the midst of a ‘golf boom’) and nowhere more so than Hainan which is bidding to become a golfing paradise. Last month, Hollywood heavyweights and hip swingers such as Christian Slater, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey made their way to Hainan for the Mission Hills ‘Star Trophy’ tournament – the first major celebrity golf pro-am event to be held in China. Mission Hills maybe the most visible face of golf in Hainan, but there’s a cornucopia of other courses and resorts built (or being built) on the island so don’t forget to pack your golf clubs!

Get wet
With an average annual temperature of 25.4 degrees Celsius and four summer-like seasons, Sanya is hot, hot, hot! The best way to beat the steamy heat and keep your cool is to get out on the water. Swimming, snorkelling, banana boat rides and the like are all widely available but to ensure full holiday bragging rights, why not give wind surfing or wake boarding a go. Of course as enjoyable as activities above the water are, it’s what lies beneath that is of real interest so think about signing up for PADI diving course. Once you’ve got your qualification, you can dive in and experience the glory of the underwater kingdom for yourself.

Hike the highlands
Back on dry land tramp through Jiangfeng Ling Forest Reserve (a place of pure unadulterated beauty), scale a mountain such as Mount Wuzhi, Mount Diaolu or Mount Qianxianling or hike to Hainan’s highlands – a collection of pretty villages, situated slap bang in the middle of the island. It’s here that you’ll encounter the Li and Miao minorities who were among the first to settle permanently on the island. The former live in long, semi-circular houses, made from bamboo and thatched glass, that resemble the shape of a boat Meanwhile, the Miao minority reside in pyramid shaped structures coated with thatches. Both provide a great photo opportunity – but be polite and ask before you start snapping.

Bake on a beach

Make no mistake: Hainan’s highlands are majestic but it’s the beaches at Sanya that are the island’s strongest draw. Sanya – China’s only tropical seaside destination – lies at 18 degrees north latitude which is the same as Hawaii and, just like Hawaii, boasts sand the colour of icing sugar. Dadonghai is arguably the most popular beach: aside from its physical assets, guests can also enjoy all manner of water sports, sailing and speedboat trips while shops, restaurants and amusement facilities are also all within easy reach. Other options include Sanya Bay (the best spot to watch the sun do its incredible sinking thing every evening) or the exclusive Yalong Bay, which is where the high-end hotels and resorts have set up shop. Speaking of which…

Hole up in a five star hotel
Sanya, in the south of Hainan, has the highest density of international branded hotels in China. The Sheraton, Marriott, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, Kempinski have all taken up a tenancy but Sanya’s superior resort is the Ritz-Carlton, Sanya. Located on an exclusive beach on Yalong Bay, the Ritz-Carlton Sanya offers 450 well-appointed guestrooms, 17 suites and 33 private villas with individual plunge pools offering ultimate privacy – and has won almost every award going since it opened its doors in 2008. With eight upscale dining options, an award winning spa (one of the largest in the region) and fitness centre featuring a kinesis studio, every inch of the Ritz-Carlton, Sanya seems designed to make you feel good about life. We’d happily hole up here!

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